Bush’s presidency, Republican leaders won praise for expanding food assistance. Now the House GOP is drawing criticism for cutting it. Matt Rourke/AP During George W. Bush’s presidency, Republican leaders won praise for expanding food assistance. Now the House GOP is drawing criticism for cutting it. Matt Rourke/AP The Republican-controlled House’s vote to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program is just the latest example of how the GOP balance of power has shifted rightward over the past decade. President George W. Bush isn’t fondly remembered by progressives for much. But anti-hunger advocates credited him during his administration for strongly supporting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the formal name for food stamps) and other policies to help unemployed or low-income workers and their children escape the fear of not knowing where their next meals would come from. Under Bush, funding for SNAP doubled . When I talked with anti-hunger advocates fairly early in the Bush administration, they were already praising Bush for doing more than President Clinton to directly respond to the food insecurity crisis affecting many people. Whether it came from Bush’s sincere desire to help those most in need, political calculus or both, it was the kind of “compassionate conservatism” policy meant to appeal to voters beyond the fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party’s base. With its expansive aspects, softer edge and its potential to broaden Republican appeal to voters beyond the base, it resembled Bush’s successful expansion of Medicare benefits to include prescription drug coverage and the failed effort at an immigration overhaul. By contrast, with its focus on fiscal austerity, the House GOP’s approval of Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s bill to cut food aid more closely resembles a case of political base cultivation. It’s safe to say the measure will do little to expand the party’s national base and could even lose the GOP some votes.
A casual survey of grocery workers revealed that theyre not entirely sure what it means, either. Best by or use by dates, on the other hand, typically indicate the date by which the foods producer decides it will be at peak quality. This doesnt necessarily have anything to do with whether or not its likely to have spoiled by then. If foods spoiled, youll know it, according to one study quoted in the report: most perishables will deteriorate in quality to the point that it would not be palatable to eat before there [is] an increase in the level of food safety risk. On the flip side of this, people led astray by dates might assume that theyre eating something safe despite evidence to the contrary. Much more important than how long somethings been stored, the report says, is the amount of time it spends unrefrigerated. So dont drink milk thats starting to curdle, even if the date says its safe. We need a standardized, commonsense date labeling system that actually provides useful information to consumers, rather than the unreliable, inconsistent and piecemeal system we have today, Emily Broad Leib, lead author of the report and director of Harvard Law Schools Food Law and Policy Clinic, said in a statement. Until that happens, consumers are best off relying on their good sense. Does it reek? Is there mold growing? Have you left it out in a hot car for hours on end? When in doubt, throw it out, is still a good rule-of-thumb it just shouldnt depend on what you think the labels telling you. Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on all things sustainability. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A key component of Farm Aid concerts this year’s is taking place Saturday in Saratoga Springs is the food, which comes through Farm Aid’s Homegrown Concessions. It was started six years ago to create new markets for family farmers. Vendors, which include local food-service outlets, as well as national brands such as Chipotle and Amy’s Organic, must meet Farm Aid’s criteria for sourcing the ingredients in their food, from organic flour in the panini to free-ranging, antibiotic-free hogs on the barbecue grill. Even the cotton candy has a family farm origin, made from maple syrup produced in the Catskills. “Farm Aid’s mission is about family farmers, and economic opportunity for family farmers is a really big priority of ours,” said Glenda Yoder, associate director of Farm Aid. “We also support good farming practices and rewarding farmers for those practices. So our Homegrown criteria call for food that is sourced from family farms that meet an ecological standard, and that returns a fair price to the farmer.” Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Dave Matthews and John Mellencamp lead the star-studded lineup this year, along with Jack Johnson, Carlene Carter, Toad the Wet Sprocket and about 10 other artists. The annual concert is the chief moneymaker for the Farm Aid organization Nelson co-founded in 1985 and leads as president. The beneficiaries of the organization’s year-round efforts are always featured prominently at the shows, with a Homegrown Village providing concert-goers a chance to meet local farmers, learn agrarian skills, and eat food from vendors who meet strict criteria set by Farm Aid. This year the village is being set up on the expansive lawns of the state park surrounding the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The action there gets going before the 10-hour concert. The village offers plenty of activities to help people get in touch with their inner farmer. There’s a daylong group potato-stamp art project; workshops on making butter, bacon, cheese, lemon vinegar and llama wool bracelets; and a demonstration of how to grow shiitake mushrooms on logs in your own backyard. The Farm Aid organization has raised more than $43 million since 1985 to support programs that help small family farms, expand the Good Food Movement and promote locally grown food.
Currently, these individuals can qualify for food stamps “if governors discover that there really aren’t any jobs or there aren’t any job training spots for people to get into.” States then can apply for an exemption that would allow these individuals to still receive foods stamps, explained Cook. “The people who take advantage of this are some of the poorest of the poor people in the country,” Cook told CP. “Their average annual income is $2200 a person. They are among the most difficult to employee. If the government says our economy works well, when we have five or six percent unemployment, because that’s our policy, at least they can eat.” But according to Ken Blackwell, who is the Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at the conservative Christian lobbying group, Family Research Council, programs like food stamps prevented people from being truly empowered. Like us on Facebook “I think through empowering others and creating self-sufficiencythere within lies the path to sense of worthiness,” Blackwell told CP. “When I was growing up, there was fundamental belief, that there were times in people’s life when they needed a hand upthere were temporariness to hose programs, where they were structured so that they didn’t breed so that they didn’t breed dependency.” Blackwell also suggested that there was “nothing more Christian” than “not locking people into a permanent dependency on government handouts, but making sure they are participants in their own upliftment and empowerment so that they in fact through the dignity of work and can break from the plantation of big government.” For Cook, though, providing food stamps for the poor had strong Biblical support. “In the whole kind of Biblical frame, God made three provisions for hungry people,” said Cook. “One was the tithe, which was literally a tax, because the government was the same as the religious order, and allowed widows and orphans to eat.” “The second provision was that there would always be Sabbath and jubilee, where every seven years and 50 years, there was land redistribution. This provision was to prevent class of people that were currently hungry,” Cook added. The last, Cook said, was gleaning where corners of the field were deliberately not harvested so poorer members of the community could gather the remainder and use it to feed themselves. “Here, hungry people have access to food as a matter of right, not as a matter of charity,” said Cook, attempting to bring the connection back to contemporary American context.